2018-06-07 / Front Page

Main Street trees: Should they stay or go?

They will most likely be replaced with smaller trees, which was done on lower Main Street last fall
By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer

Trees along Main Street are slated to be replaced with honeylocusts, maple trees and Saratoga maidenhair, upon city council approval. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo)Trees along Main Street are slated to be replaced with honeylocusts, maple trees and Saratoga maidenhair, upon city council approval. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo)
BIDDEFORD – Biddeford is preparing to embark on the second part of its Main Street sidewalk improvement project.

The project is part of a greater aim to improve downtown and renovate Main Street from both an aesthetic and functional standpoint. Phase 1 of the project, which was completed last fall and cost $677,363, on Main Street between Water and Adams streets, included the replacement of existing concrete, adding cobblestone edging to crosswalks, ensuring that new crosswalks will be ADA compliant, and the removal and replacement of trees that had become too large for the street. Phase 2 will focus on Main Street between Adams Street and Elm Street, and will continue with those changes.

A public discussion was held May 31 at city hall for Phase 2 of the project, which allowed residents an opportunity to raise concerns and provide suggestions prior to final proposal in front of the city council at a currently unscheduled time. The project will cost $30,349, according to the proposal by HEB Engineers, and will be funded by A Community Development Block Grant.

Colin Dinsmore, senior engineer at HEB Engineers, began the meeting with a presentation detailing the project. Dinsmore called it “fairly straightforward,” as the project will primarily mirror the work already completed. Dinsmore used a map of proposed plans for Main Street, and pointed out not only where crosswalks will be implemented, but also where trees will be replaced.

According to Dinsmore, some of the trees have grown either too large for the street grates that house them or have become too damaged from plowing incidents or incorrect pruning. The smaller, healthy trees will remain. There is also concern that as trees grow too large for the sidewalk, the roots will push up the concrete and cause the sidewalk to become unleveled. The project will focus on ensuring that new tree grates will lie flush with the sidewalk to avoid tripping hazards. Phase 1 of the project replaced 14 trees, and there are currently 12 on being considered for replacement in Phase 2.

“I think that that replacing the trees opened up the nice architecture downtown and made it brighter and safe,” Dinsmore said, referring to lower Main Street, where the larger trees have already been replaced with smaller ones. “We’re going to mimic what was done in the other area.”

Biddeford resident Ron Gobeil said he thinks trees add a lot to the downtown, and that they make it more inviting.

“The trees make the street more pedestrian friendly,” Gobeil added. “It gets hot in the summer time, and the shade is welcome. We need to protect the trees.”

Dinsmore said all trees that are removed would be replaced. Gobeil countered that before trees are uprooted, they should be reevaluated. He also requested a second opinion from an arborist.

“There are a lot of good trees out there – lively, steady. I know the new generation wants everything to move forward, but there’s value in those old trees. We just want to make sure everything is done right,” said Biddeford resident Marcel Laflamme.

Community Development Coordinator Linda Waters assured residents that prior to any tree removal, she would have Dale Pierson of Pierson Nurseries look at all of the trees again to ensure the city doesn’t cut down healthy greenery.

Biddeford resident Leah Schaffer said cyclist safety is compromised on Main Street because cobblestones that line crosswalks become very slippery when it rains, making it easy for cyclists to slip and potentially crash.

“I understand aesthetically the cobblestones are nice, they can be dangerous in the rain,” Schaffer said. “We need a true bike lane path.”

Schaffer had questions about the intersections on Main Street and whether there were plans for the city to implement traffic lights. Dinsmore said while the project does not directly deal with modifications to traffic patterns, the project will include accommodations for future projects, should they arise. For example, there will be blank electricity conduits, which will allow an electrical source for future traffic lights, if need be.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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